IU women calm jitters, roll in exhibition

For the first 10 minutes of Friday night’s exhibition game at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, the Indiana women’s basketball team was playing two opponents — visiting Northwood and itself.

With just two returning starters available and four new faces to integrate, the Hoosiers were often their own worst enemy en route to falling behind 22-17 after one quarter.

But the jitters abated, defense was asserted and the offense emerged as IU rolled to a 78-52 victory in its lone preseason tuneup.

“A lot of it we’re going to chalk up to the butterflies,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “I think all these guys were really antsy to be out on the floor in front of our crowd. A lot of it was not being sound defensively, not being disciplined. Some of it was being over aggressive, over helping at times.

“All fixable things, which is great, but as far as intention and wanting to do the right thing, I’m really proud of that.”

The Hoosiers were without guard Bendu Yeaney, who sat out as a precautionary measure after battling Achilles soreness for the past three weeks, which opened the door for freshman Grace Berger to get the start.

Like many of her teammates, the rough first quarter aside, Berger did not disappoint with 13 points, six rebounds and five assists.

“I think I got some of the jitters out in the first half, then some of my teammates were telling me at halftime to stay confident and my shot would come once I got used to the pace of the college game,” the Louisville product said.

Fellow freshman Aleksa Gulbe of Latvia finished as IU’s leading scorer with 15 points to go with five blocked shots. Pitt transfer Brenna Wise added 13 points and six rebounds, while Notre Dame transfer Ali Patberg had nine points and eight assists in a balanced attack.

For me, (playing through the nerves) was really big,” Patberg said. “My first game, Grace’s first game here at IU, being on the floor, which is why we play exhibition games — to get all that out, work through that. We were aware of that, just needed to focus, honestly, on our defense, and once we did that, it led to us more relaxing on offense.”

The Division II Timberwolves scored 22 points in the first quarter but only 30 the rest of the game as the Hoosiers indeed focused on their defense.

“We were struggling to keep the ball in front of us, which can’t happen,” Patberg said. “But we made that adjustment, and once we keyed in on our defense and making stops, that’s what led to our better offense as well.”

IU held Northwood without a field goal for the final 7:27 of the second quarter to erase the deficit and build a 37-28 halftime lead.

“First quarter a little sluggish as far as defensively,” Moren said. “Disappointed with how we guarded dribble penetration. We addressed it at timeouts, we addressed it at halftime. We knew sooner or later our shots would start falling for us. It’s great just to be able to play a combination of kids and give them good in-game experience, especially Grace Berger and Aleksa and even A.P. and Brenna Wise.

“Without watching film, I can say this: I thought we settled down in the second, third, fourth quarter much better, guarded much better, but without having Bendu Yeaney and Jaelynn Penn most of the second half, I liked the way our pieces were working off each other.”

Penn played just eight minutes in the second half after aggravating an ankle sprain that she has only recently returned from.

Being short-handed in the backcourt also helped give rise to a new way for those pieces to work together — a three-big lineup of Wise, Gulbe and Royster or Linsey Marchese. This was Moren’s second look at such a lineup since both Penn and Yeaney sat out the Hoosiers’ closed scrimmage with IUPUI.

“We’ve spent time on it in practice, and it does give you some other options to post Brenna, to post Aleksa, to post Kym,” Moren said. “The great thing about it is last year, because Brenna wasn’t playing for us, she spent a lot of time on the perimeter, so she’s pretty comfortable out there coming off ballscreens. … We feel we can play a different way than in the past.”

But between now and Wednesday’s regular-season opener against Milwaukee in Assembly Hall, she’d like the defense to look a little less different.

“I hate to sound like broken record from a year ago but (defense) is the biggest transition for these guys,” Moren said. “They are getting used to defending at a whole other level. It’s new for them, so if we have to improve anything before Wednesday, it’s at the defensive end.

“I think we’ll be able to score the ball, but we have to be more sound defensively.”

10 comments

  1. This is a team full of potential that can compete for the conference title if they are willing to work hard enough , trust the process and believe in each other.
    See you at the Hall on Wednesday!

  2. Great first game although it was an exhibition. As the article states, it took a while for everyone to get the nerves out of the way which is typical for a first game. I thought the freshmen (Gulbe and Berger) were very impressive. Berger is everything I thought she would be, very aggressive offensively and in the middle of everything defensively. Her ability to rebound the ball and take it the length of the floor to score is impressive. Once she becomes more comfortable with her perimeter shot, she will be very difficult to guard. Gulbe is as good as she looked on the u-tube videos that I watched of her, strong and fundamentally sound as is typical of European players. We have a real find in this girl! When her and Wise and Marchese are on the floor at the same time, we have outstanding size up front. Wise is everything that we thought she would be, she is an outstanding player at the wing position. Very hard nosed and very strong, look at her “guns” when she flexes her arms. Marchese looks quicker than last year, in the pick and roll play. Patberg is the “real deal” at the point. I just hope she can stay healthy, terrific all around player! Another thing about Patberg at the point position, she has great size defensively which is a real plus! We know have terrific size at the guard position which is great! Penn will be very hard to guard this year and probably be our leading scorer. When we get Bendu healthy, this is going to be fun. This team will be very balanced as opposed to last years where the 2 studs had to score every night and we had to hope we had a couple of more players to step up. This team will be very balanced where multiple players will contribute. This will be a fun team to watch! The only concern at this point in time is rebounding? We only outrebounded a team much smaller than us by 2 last night, that is concerning? Really looking forward to Wednesday night when it starts for real. Go Hoosiers!!

  3. I have forever only paid passing attention to WBB. Just headlines and such. No time to fit much more in. But I’m going to at least stay up to date with this bunch of Lady Hoosiers as it looks to me Moren has them recruited up to rock n roll. She has successfully moved this program up into the conference light.

  4. Not much to add to Mike C’s comments, but I will say this.
    Figuring out who gets to play and how many minutes everybody gets is a problem we have never faced before.
    The number of potentially extremely good basketball players we have is mind-blowing.
    And we have ONE senior.

  5. Its pretty much all been said, but I never had a doubt about Berger doing what she does. The thing that stands out is that this team will be balanced scoring wise , wont be any 20 pt scorers maybe on occasion. I remember reading an article someone wrote about Gulbe before she got to IU saying that she could possibly be Big Ten freshman of the year, I would guess Berger might have something to say about that in her play. I commented a couple times last year that this years team will be better and now believe that even more so. Being deeper with a better rotation should give players more rest as opposed to last years team having to go the whole way in most games. Go IU!

  6. Is anyone else having problems playing the videos at iuhoosiers.com. Using firefox they buffer and never play, using ie I just get black screens, chrome is the only one that will play them and they have pauses. I dont have a problem playing vids anywhere else.

  7. Was stoked to see the taller lineup and some improved post play. Linsey looked like she has been doing some work in the off-season and looked stronger on the floor. Excited to see AP running the floor and Berger looks like she is going to make a real impact on this team. Definitely jitters in the first quarter and some questionable passes, but I have high hopes for this young team. Happy to have season tickets and ready for the season to begin on Wednesday. Fans of IUWBB, come hang with us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/IUWBB/

  8. rocky77
    Agree with your comments and have never been so optimistic about our chances. So many good players.
    I would LOVE to follow the women on Facebook, but “You must log in to continue.”
    I will not “sign up for Facebook” in order to do it.

  9. As others have said the potential this team has to be so balanced and have players off the bench come in lose nothing is a key ingredient that this team has not had in the past. Buss and Cahill were depended on for so much and had to play most of the game. This year there are more options and even Patberg mentioned about the scoring balance in her interview “it is unique”. Gulbe brings in a special addition with her size and athletic ability and experience from overseas. Im trying to hold back my enthusiasm till the season gets underway, but I cannot.

  10. Anyone notice in the team photo from 11.1.18 that Gulbe standing next to Marchese appears an inch taller. If Marchese is 6′ 3″ as listed how tall does that make Gulbe. Im suspecting that Linsey might only be 6′ 2″.

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